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Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together

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by Mark Driscoll, Grace Driscoll

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Most marriage books assume the author did it right. Most marriage books barely mention friendship. Most marriage books use “intimacy” as code for “sex.” This is not one of those books.

In Real Marriage, Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, share how they have struggled and how they have found healing through the power of the only


Most marriage books assume the author did it right. Most marriage books barely mention friendship. Most marriage books use “intimacy” as code for “sex.” This is not one of those books.

In Real Marriage, Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, share how they have struggled and how they have found healing through the power of the only reliable source: the Bible. They believe friendship is fundamental to marriage but not easy to maintain. So they offer practical advice on how to make your spouse your best friend – and keep it that way. And they know from experience that sex-related issues need to be addressed directly.

Five chapters are dedicated to answering questions like:

  • Should I confess my pre-marital sexual sin to my spouse?
  • Is it okay to have a “work spouse”?
  • What does the Bible say about masturbation and oral sex?

Stunningly honest and vulnerable, Real Marriage is like a personal counseling session with a couple you cannot surprise, you cannot shock into silence, who will respond to every question with wisdom, humility, and realism.

If you want to have a long-lasting, fulfilling marriage you should read this book. Wrestle with this book. Pray over this book. Share this book. And discover how God can use it to change your life.


“If you’re married or plan to be someday, do yourself a favor and read every page of this book.” —DRS. LES & LESLIE PARROTT Founders of and authors of Love Talk

“Whether engaged, newlywed, or veteran, Real Marriage will serve as an invaluable resource. I highly recommend this book.” —ANDY STANLEY author of The Grace of God and Senior Pastor, North Point Community Church

"One of my greatest concerns is that culture is going to continually define and redefine what marriage is and is not, and the church is going to simply sit on the sidelines and react rather than seeking to actually become proactive by confidently teaching what the Bible has to say about it.  That is why I am so thankful that Mark and Grace Driscoll wrote this book.  Their approach to marriage, its benefits and challenges are transparent and challenging and I honestly believe that every married couple who will work through what they lead us through in this book will not just merely have a marriage that survives in this world but rather thrives in it." — PERRY NOBLE Senior Pastor, NewSpring Church

"Our thanks to Mark and Grace Driscoll who have served this generation well by tastefully but boldly addressing the real issues facing real marriages. Taking the unchanging truth of God’s word and sprinkling in is the story of God’s mercy in their own marriage they have filled every chapter with real helpfulness. This book is powerful, biblical, practical and healing for marriages that hurt. My wife and our adult children read it to great profit." — DR. JAMES MACDONALD Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel and Bible teacher for Walk in the Word

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
High-profile pastor Driscoll and his wife, Grace, have not only pulled back the curtain on the condition of marriage but have opened wide the door to their own home, taking readers into arguments, dating life, mistakes, and healing in their own marriage. While written from a theological point of view, they also did their homework in a wide range of therapeutic marriage books and have done thousands of hours of counseling and teaching marriage seminars along with their regular teaching in their Seattle church, Mars Hill. This is a book about married friendship, sexuality, healing broken marriages, and “reverse engineering” a marriage that will last—beginning with a vision of the end result and working back toward that. It includes no-holds-barred chapters on sex—how Mark held sex as “god” and Grace as “gross” and how they together discovered sex as a “gift” from God. The Driscolls’ Neo-Reformed views come shining through, with much emphasis on sin’s role in wrecking marriages today and Christ’s role in redeeming them. Taken to heart and put into practice, this boldly refreshing approach can change couples across America by letting God do the changing. (Jan.)

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Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2012 On Mission, LLC
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4002-0383-3

Chapter One


Behold, I make all things new. —Revelation 21:5

How is your love life?

Are you single, hoping to meet someone and live happily ever after? Seeing someone and contemplating marriage? Maybe you're newly married and still filled with wedded bliss, or a married couple so exhausted from the constant demands of work and parenting that your marriage is slipping. You may be reeling from a devastating sin in your marriage. Or the two of you are still in love and doing pretty well, but you want to avoid ending up like other couples you know who are not getting along and possibly even getting divorced. Perhaps you are empty nesters who have realized that the kids largely held together your family, and you don't have a close friendship now that they're out of the house. Are you a parent or grandparent concerned for the marriage of your child or grandchild? Divorced and trying to figure out what went wrong and how not to endure that pain again? A leader who seeks to help people struggling with relationship issues?

Whether you or someone you know has a problem in marriage—or are trying to avoid one—my wife, Grace, and I hope to help. We want to serve you in this book. So we will be honest about our own failures, sins, mistakes, and griefs. Even a pastor and his wife come into marriage with baggage and a few carry-ons. But God has been faithful to us, and we trust Him to be faithful to you as well. To get started, we thought it would be helpful for us to share our story in hopes that you would get to know us a bit, thereby providing some context for what we write in this book and hopefully earning your trust.

* * *

Can you imagine being onstage in front of thousands of people, answering the most intimate questions about sex and relationships? That's where I (Grace) found myself a couple of years ago when my husband was preaching the Song of Solomon to our church. At the end of his teaching, I would join Mark onstage, where we'd sit as members of the congregation texted us their questions, which would appear on a big screen next to us. We took turns answering everything from "How long should I wait for my boyfriend to commit to me?" to "Why should I stop sleeping with my girlfriend when we've been together for five years?"

I had prayed for months about whether I should join Mark onstage for this. What if someone asks me something too embarrassing to answer? What if I say something that sounds foolish? Will people think Mark and I are claiming to know all the answers? In the end, I made the decision to step out in faith. No, we don't know all the answers, but we have studied for years what God says on the subjects of sex and marriage. And we have certainly learned a lot the hard way. Like many, we entered marriage with a load of habits, secrets, and preconceptions that could have killed our marriage.

For me, the seeds for the potential destruction of my marriage were planted as a child. As a pastor's kid, I gave in to the pressure to pretend that everything was perfect and avoided looking sinful. Unfortunately, it is common for pastors' kids to believe they can't be themselves for fear of ruining the ministry of the church somehow. We often practiced the "silent treatment" when we were upset, rather than dealing with sin issues kindly and honestly, so I learned to hide my sin from my parents and others. I was also afraid of the conflict and exposure it would take to resolve it. I had the misconception that Christianity was just having good values and acting right on the "outside," but I didn't understand true heart-changing repentance. I often felt shame when I sinned but didn't know how to get past it by confessing the sin, asking God and the other person I sinned against to forgive me, receiving that forgiveness, and asking Jesus to help me turn from that sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My oldest sister and I had a rough relationship growing up, and I remember often saying I was sorry, but don't recall really feeling bad that I had hurt her. It was more like a script I read to move on or get out of my bedroom "time-out." Now when I sin I actually feel the impact of sinning against a holy God and whoever else might be involved, which is prompted by the Holy Spirit. If I had understood the gospel more deeply, I would have known that repentance keeps shame from condemning us because Jesus died and scorned the shame.

Though repentance is humbling, there is such a freedom in allowing Jesus to replace sin with His free gift of righteousness. Sadly, I became great at lying and pretending I was a good person. I didn't fully understand my sin nature and need for Jesus to die for my sins. Upon entering junior high, I still lacked confidence and went through two very awkward years believing I had no value. Even though I was a Christian, I still didn't realize my identity needed to be founded on God creating me in His image and Jesus gifting me with His righteousness. I did well in school and started to make friends, thinking I was doing better, but not giving credit to God for giving me those abilities. That's when I met a handsome young man named Mark.

* * *

I (Mark) was raised in a very rough neighborhood near the airport in Seattle before it was incorporated as a city. Without a local police force, it resembled the Wild West. There were multiple strip clubs, seedy massage parlors, and hourly rate motels down the street from my home. The prostitutes walked the streets openly and were brazen enough to even walk up and knock on my car window, seeking "business," as I waited for the light to turn green. Some of these young women attended my high school; and serial killers murdered some of them. Ted Bundy and the Green River Killer picked up many of their victims in my neighborhood, even dumping at least two of their bodies at my Little League field.

The men on my father's side include uneducated alcoholics, mental patients, and women beaters. This includes an uncle who died of gangrene and his sons, roughly my age, who have been in prison for beating women and were supposedly on the television show Cops. One of the main reasons my parents moved from North Dakota to Seattle was to get away from some family members when I was a very young boy.

Growing up, my goal was to get out of my neighborhood and enjoy a new and better life. I remember building forts as a young boy and treating them as my own home. I did not want to get trapped by gangs, drugs, alcohol, crime, or manipulative women. I wanted to get an education; make some money; live in a better neighborhood; marry a nice, beautiful woman; and be a father. This was my vision from a very young age.

I did not drink, and to this day have never done any drugs or taken a puff of a cigarette. I did well in sports and school. By fifteen I had lied about my age, falsified my birth certificate, bought a car, and drove myself to work at a 7-Eleven (near the strip clubs), where I sold liquor, condoms, porn, and rubbing alcohol for freebasing drug addicts who lived in the low-income apartments next door. Around this time I also started having sex with a girlfriend.

I was the "good guy" in my high school. I graduated high school "Most Likely to Succeed," student body president, Man of the Year, editor of the school newspaper, and a four-year letterman in baseball. I was part of a bond campaign to renovate our school and was active in a state political campaign. I was a moral, religious boy from a Catholic home who, for the most part, stayed out of trouble despite a short wick, foul mouth, and bad temper that resulted in doling out more than a few beatings to various guys—usually for what they were doing to women and children. In short, I was a good guy and a tough guy, so I thought.

At seventeen I became smitten with a cute girl named Grace who was a grade older in school. A friend in common introduced us, and before long we were going out on our first date. Grace was a pastor's daughter, and although she was a Christian, she had fallen into drinking and partying. Underneath the "fun girl" image, though, she was hurting. It was a lonely place for a young woman to be. She was the youngest of three girls and was very shy and naive, not understanding the world around her.

Innocence in a child is normal and healthy, but naivety is when you believe things or trust people without ever questioning them, and it leads to a lack of discernment. Innocence is when a child trusts her parents, as she should be able to, and is free to grow and mature in wisdom with their guidance. Naivety, on the other hand, can be harmful to the person if, as a regular way of thinking, she is unaware of the dangers around her. For example, in college Grace used to walk alone at night around a dark and dangerous campus and would unknowingly put herself in dangerous positions with guys.

Neither Grace nor I was a virgin when we met, and before long we were dating and sleeping together, which continued even after she went off to college while I was finishing high school.

Upon graduation from high school, I was given a free senior trip to Mexico. The company representative said I would receive "VIP treatment" that included lots of alcohol and young women to sleep with. A few weeks before the trip, I declined the offer because I loved Grace and did not want to ruin my relationship with her.

Off to college I went, and—as an unbelieving freshman in college a few hundred miles away from Grace—I joined a fraternity. Our frat party was the first weekend, and while I was not planning on drinking, I was planning on attending the party and was tempted to see what might happen with the young women. Our frat filled the basement with music, beer, and black lights. Soon a parade of young women flooded the hot basement to dance and hand out variously colored highlighter pens, inviting the guys to draw on their white tank tops and T-shirts to glow in the dark. As I was walking into the basement room, I had a strong, strange sense that I should not enter, and I did not know why. I was not a Christian, but it seemed to me that if I walked through that door, my life course would change, and I knew I was supposed to turn and walk away. So I did, and only later came to realize it was God saving me from myself.

The next morning I awoke before anyone else, because I was not hung over. (I was possibly the only guy in the frat who did not drink.) Downstairs I encountered a sorority girl who was still drunk, confused, and crying. She was nearly naked, wrapped in a blanket, unsure of what happened to her, whom she woke up with, or where her clothes were. I gave her a pair of my sweats and walked her home. She cried the entire way, and that morning I decided to leave the frat, without having touched any young woman. And I missed Grace.

My pledge class ended up getting arrested. They spent evenings and weekends in jail or doing community service. I got out just in time by the grace of God.

Not long after, God saved me while I was sitting in my dorm, reading the Bible Grace had given me. Back in high school, once she suspected that I was probably not a Christian, she did not break up with me as she should have. Instead, she bought me a nice leather Bible with my name on it. I had not really read it up until that point, but kept it around as a sort of good-luck charm. That day I finally picked it up. I was not going to church, had not heard a gospel presentation or read the Bible, and no one led me to Christ. In Romans 1:6, I read, "You also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" (NIV). God highlighted that statement in my soul, and it seemed evident to me from that moment forward that my life was not my own. I belonged to Jesus Christ like a tool in His hand for whatever He wanted.

I soon went searching for a church, unclear of what I was even looking for and afraid that I might end up in a cult. By God's grace, I ended up in a solid Bible-teaching church, where I was taught about Jesus, marriage, sex, and family. I absolutely loved my first church; the people were invaluable in teaching me about life as God intended, without pretention or legalistic rules. I often thank God that my first church was a wonderful church and one of the highlights of my entire life.


Excerpted from REAL MARRIAGE by MARK DRISCOLL GRACE DRISCOLL Copyright © 2012 by On Mission, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Mark Driscoll is one of the 50 most influential pastors in America, and the founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (, the Paradox Theater, and the Acts 29 Network which has planted scores of churches. Mark is the author of The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out. He speaks extensively around the country, has lectured at a number of seminaries, and has had wide media exposure ranging from NPR’s All Things Considered to the 700 Club, and from Leadership Journal to Mother Jones magazine. He’s a staff religion writer for the Seattle Times. Along with his wife and children, Mark lives in Seattle.

Grace Driscoll is a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication, Washington State University, where she earned a BA in Public Relations. She delights in being a stay-at-home mom, where she and her husband, Mark, raise their three sons and two daughters.

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